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Going Viral for Obama

Are videos featuring Sarah Silverman and Samuel L. Jackson, put out by a Jewish Super PAC, swaying voters?

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Never heard of the Jewish Council for Education and Research? Well, if you’ve laughed at an election video recently—like Sarah Silverman’s “Let My People Vote” or Samuel L. Jackson’s “Wake the F*ck Up”—you’ve seen the JCER’s handiwork. They’re the Super PAC behind the most buzzed-about viral videos of this campaign—and the same guys responsible for “The Great Schlep,” Silverman’s 2008 appeal to young Jews to go down to Florida and convince their grandparents to vote for Barack Obama.

The organization, run by Mik Moore, 38 years old, and Ari Wallach, 36, insists that the star-studded pro-Obama videos are more than a gimmick. “There’s substance in everything we do,” Moore told me. “But how can we reach people and make them want to share it? One way is using humor, and one element is profanity.”

The formula appears to have worked. According to Mashable, a website specializing in social media news, “Let My People Vote,” starring Silverman, was YouTube’s most-shared ad in September 2012. (“Wake the F*ck Up” was the sixth.)

Moore and Wallach didn’t stumble on liberal social media gold out of nowhere: Both had experience working for progressive causes. From 2005 to 2011, Moore was the chief strategy officer for Jewish Funds for Justice, now known as Bend the Arc. Wallach had done consulting for the Coro Foundation and finance work for the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C.

The pair joined forces in the spring of 2008. “We met via mutual friends who had heard we were both taking leaves of absence from our jobs to devote ourselves to electing Obama, with special emphasis on Jewish outreach,” Wallach explained. They were particularly troubled by what they saw as a misinformation campaign targeting older Jewish voters in Florida. Moore pointed to anti-Obama emails sent to South Floridians that got forwarded to grandchildren living in places like New York and San Francisco.

So, Moore and Wallach teamed up to do something about it by creating JCER, a political action committee. As a PAC, JCER could accept contributions only of $5,000 or less, but the two wanted to make sure the organization punched about its weight. “The goal was to set the record straight about Obama,” Moore explained. They reached out to Silverman, a Jewish comedienne famous for her potty-mouth and her in-your-face humor, and “The Great Schlep” was born.

Obama ended up winning Florida, securing grandparent-heavy counties like Miami-Dade (58 percent), Palm Beach (62 percent), and Broward (67 percent). But was “The Great Schlep” a gimmick or a game-changer? “Hundreds of people told us they were joining,” Moore said. “The local Obama office reported getting a major surge in volunteers that weekend.” But according to AdWeek, fewer than 100 Schleppers showed. Moore said more than 100,000 people downloaded the talking points published online in conjunction the Great Schlep. “Beyond that, no idea,” he admitted when I asked about the project’s impact. “There’s a lot that we don’t know.”

In 2012, Moore and Wallach turned JCER into a Super PAC, so they could accept larger donations. Alex Soros, George Soros’ son and a major donor to the Jewish Funds for Justice, gave the organization $200,000. The donation was by far the largest JCER had ever received, and Wallach and Moore, who were now running the organization in addition to their day jobs as consultants, decided to direct the money toward projects targeting Democratic voters who they felt were more active during the 2008 election than 2012. “There’s a softening of support from 2008 supporters on the left,” Moore explained. “You just want to shake them,” he said of apathetic Democratic voters who were actively supporting Obama in 2008.

Step one: shock. “Scissor Sheldon,” an ad released in July 2012 in response to Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s pledge to give up to $100 million to Republican candidate Mitt Romney, did just that. The video featured Silverman making an explicit sexual offer to Adelson if he donated the money to Obama instead. “We wanted to make it clear that Adelson didn’t speak for American Jews,” Moore said. “It’s meant to talk about a serious issue: the role one person is playing with his money.” Some loved it; others saw it as crude.

Next came “Let My People Vote,” another ad from Silverman released in late September, this time targeting voter-fraud laws. “Wake the F*ck Up,” released the following week, stars actor Samuel L. Jackson in an ad written by Adam Mansbach and directed by Boaz Yakin based on Mansbach’s 2011 children’s book, Go the F*ck to Sleep. (Jackson had narrated the audio version of the book.) Jackson explains to different members of a disengaged pro-Obama family why they need to get involved in the 2012 election (The Super PAC takes on a more serious tone in their new Obama on Israel series, which features interviews with Israelis about Obama, conducted by Rabbi Susan Silverman, Sarah’s sister. Not surprisingly, those videos have gotten fewer hits.)

But do video shares translate to anything other than laughs? “It’s hard to go into the election and see what caused what,” Moore said. But Wallach sees their campaigns as part of a larger shift in political advocacy. “Not everyone is going to become a door knocker for Obama,” he said. “The other 90 percent still want to engage and be part of the process.” The more strategy-focused of the pair, Wallach insisted that JCER’s videos provide an opportunity for those progressive Jews who aren’t going door to door. “Our videos are meant to spark conversation between people, to ask important questions,” he said. “There are ways of engaging Jews that aren’t all or nothing.”

A prominent Democratic strategist agreed. “For sure they make a difference,” he said. “There’s so many ways to talk to voters—base voters and soft voters and truly undecided voters—why not try all the ways?” But one member of Rabbis for Obama, Andy Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim, a reform synagogue in Brooklyn, is skeptical that the videos can energize voters. “It’s partisan entertainment,” he said. “If it rallies the base, terrific. Does it make a difference? I don’t know if that’s the point anymore.”

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One point I made in the interview that didn’t make the cut is that the resources Mik and Ari have at their disposal are a mere pittance compared to the millions in lies and exaggerations that are being paid for by Sheldon Adelson, Irving Moscowitz and the Koch Brothers. Obama the Muslim, Obama the Socialist, Obama the Danger to Israel. It’s really quite outrageous. The Republican ads are a juggernaut in comparison. Either way, we all should be ashamed that our political system has become so debased that we listen more to entertainers than thoughtful and reflective civic leaders calling upon us to concentrate on what’s truly wrong with this country–an unacceptably large gap between the rich and the poor.

Judy Gruen says:

Obama supporters Michael Moore, Sarah Silverman, Samuel L Jackson and I’m sure others I have missed all use profanity in their videos. Is this the best they can do? The vulgarity is not only depressing, but it shows the emptiness of liberal claims to being more sensitive than greedy, hating conservatives. I strongly resent the damage done to our culture by the promiscuous use of such degrading, angry language. It harms us all.

As a Jewish person, I am stunned that Jews still vote blindly for the Democrats. Why? They do not support Israel, and I would say even hate it in many cases. They have embrased out enemies both abroad and at home. They openly blame Jews for so many evils in the world. Will someone please help me understand why we support them so blindly? I just will never understand…..

So sensitive! Angry language bothers her! How about what is going on in this country? Is it emptiness to wish the lying, woman-hating “conservatives” would consider the future of the United States as a whole, rather than just their rich friends? Oh, so vulgar! I laughed my way through Sarah Silverman. I have known all those words since about age 9, and I was a bit slow on the uptake.

salemst says:

I’m with Matthew Perel. I’m Jewish and for the life of me can’t understand why normal thinking Jews would vote for Obama besides their marriage to liberal Democrat social/economic justice “accomplished” through enormous government spending.

In other words, wealth redistribution/socialism combined with behavioral ‘anything goes’ amorality/moral equivalence.

With no profit or behavioral standards these leftist Jews believe we achieve economic and social justice.

What they really object to, though, is the idea of self-interest. They abhor the fact that most people are governed by what’s best for them instead of their unattainable utopian ‘greater good’ Kumbaya pipe dream bankrupting us in the process.

If they want nirvana then live it themselves and leave everyone else alone.

It isn’t blind support for Democrats. We happen to live in a country that has a two-party system (unlike Israel). We look at the two parties and what they seem to consider their “agenda”. The Republicans favor total freedom from regulation for their rich friends, while supporting extreme constraints on private behavior such as birth control, abortion, marriage, sexuality in general — I could go on. Furthermore, the party in power will get to appoint one or more Supreme Court Justices. Do you really want another one of these horrible “conservatives” locking up the legal system? “Corporations are people, friend” is a quote from the Republican candidate, supported by the Supreme Court this year.

The hatred of Jews and Israel is a characteristic of the Old Left and the New Left. There are historical reasons for this stupidity, having to do with European imperialism in Africa. The “lefties”, including the usual Trotskyists and the other branches of American Communism, billed themselves as anti-imperialist, which led to support of such movements as the Algerian war against France. Somehow this led to supporting all the possible Palestinian movements, without regard to what is actually happening in that area. Paradoxically, much of the Old Left was supported by Jews at the time — approximately until the Hitler-Stalin pact (after that, only stupid Jews remained part of the group, including Noam Chomsky if memory serves).

But never never think this is BLIND support of Democrats. Jews, like other Americans, have other issues besides Israel. Right-wing America is no friend to Jewish Americans!

PhillipNagle says:

George Soros, former Nazi stooge, has a long history of being anti Israel. I certainly would have no faith that any organization he or his family are associated with care a wit about the Jewish people of the US or Israel. In the last presidential election Sarah Silverman turned out to be nothing but a lying shill for Obama, the most anti Israel president in history. If we take her serious this time, we are simple minded fools.

saidi ben yehud says:

OBAMA MUST LOOSE 2nd term

Yo soy Judío y estoy orgulloso de serlo, pero me da asco y no puedo entender cómo la mayoría de los Judios de USA puedan votar por Barack Hussein Obama. El es claramente pro “palestino” y si hay veces qué habla en favor de Israel es solamente por estrategia electoral. Deberían preguntarse por qué los Judios qué vivimos fuera de USA queremos en una abismal mayoría qué gane Romney, acasomvemos cosas qué desde alli no ven? Parecería qué si, deberían destaparse los ojos y darse cuenta qué en esta elección Israel y los Judíos de todo el mundo podríamos tener en juego la existencia de nuestro pueblo. No me gustaría estar, si llega ese crucial momento en manos de Barack Hussein Obama. Por favor abran sus ojos y voten cómo verdaderos Judios a los qué les importa el futuro del Estado Judío de Israel.

dansblog says:

Has anyone done a study of Jewish voting patterns, controlling for demographic factors such as occupation, education and geography? My intuition tells me that a sample population of non-Jews with a similar demographic distribution in these respects–same number of graduate degree-holders, white-collar professionals, Northeasterners, and so on–would be similarly Democratic-leaning. If I’m right, then the Jewish propensity to vote Democratic could simply be a manifestation of assimilation–but into their equivalent non-Jewish demographic, rather than into the population at large…

Stay classy Sarah

oaklandj says:

Hasbara is now translated into Spanish! Nice work. I guess we should be thanking Google Translate.

LtcHoward says:

Yes the studies were done and Jews do vote differently from their demographic equivalents.

There is a ancestral worship for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His history concerning the Holocaust is suppressed in Jewish memory.

At one time the Republican establishment was WASP and country club anti-Semitic. Those days have long passed.

When it comes to racial integration it was Pres. Eisenhower who used federal forces to integrate the schools. Nixon signed the equal pay and various rights legislations. Reagan instituted the most progressive environmental programs in the country. Nixon established the EPA.

I have tangled with the rabbis for justice and rabbis for living wage. While they agitate for $2 per hour increases I lobby for training programs and outreach. Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and ease for lifetime.

I, my children, and the friends of my children are active in youth activities focusing on “at risk ghetto youth.” So far many of our graduates have become teachers, engineers, physicians, as well as hard-working, family oriented garbage collectors, plumbers, delivery truck drivers , electricians, etc.

LtcHoward says:

Typical liberal crap.

I don’t understand it either Matthew! I think it comes from this stupity that follows a warped train (or lack thereof) of thought. it goes like this ”because I’m Jewish I must vote Democrat. because I’m Latino.or catholic I must vote democrat.. because Obama loves gays, he supports women’s right to an abortion”…etc instead of using their brain and voting for the BEST candidate that will be best for our country (U.S) and Isreal, and our global commuity. instead it’s I don’t have a brain cell one so I will vote for a politcal cause!

Jews vote for Democrats because Democrats have everyone’s interests at heart; Democrats care about Israel and the future of the Israeli State. Jews vote for Obama because he is going to fight alongside Israel all the way!

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Going Viral for Obama

Are videos featuring Sarah Silverman and Samuel L. Jackson, put out by a Jewish Super PAC, swaying voters?

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